The average newborn weighs approximately 7.5 pounds, but you’ll gain much more when expecting. Women with a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9) can expect to gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds, according to Patricia Lo, M.D. an OB-GYN at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. She adds that underweight women should see an increase of 28-40 pounds on the scale; overweight women (BMI between 25 and 29.5) should gain 15 to 25 pounds; and obese women (BMI above 30) should aim for 11 to 20 pounds.
Unfortunately for new moms, your postpartum belly won’t bounce back immediately after giving birth (despite the deceiving postpartum belly pictures you see of celebrities in the tabloids). Weight loss timelines differ for every woman based on a number of factors—how much you gained while pregnant, whether or not you're breastfeeding, your diet and exercise habits, etc.
So when does your postpartum belly go away, and how can you speed up the process? We spoke with experts to give tentative guidelines.
Postpartum Belly Timeline
Check out this predicted postpartum belly weight loss timeline.
Postpartum Belly After Birth
Believe it or not, weight loss starts immediately after giving birth. You’ll lose about 12 pounds as your uterus shrinks back down to the level of the belly button. "You have the baby, and then lose blood, fluids, and amniotic fluid," says Sarah B. Krieger, MPH, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who does home visits with pregnant women and moms who have children up to age three.
One Week Postpartum Belly
One week after giving birth, you're still "peeing out" a lot of fluids, especially if you had an IV/epidural, Krieger says, meaning you're still losing weight. But don't get on a scale just yet, Krieger says. "Focus on how your clothes fit instead of what the scale says," she suggests.
Breastfeeding may also play a role in weight loss during this time: While nursing women are advised to consume an additional 500 calories, they often lose more weight than formula-feeding moms. "Breastfeeding consumes calories," says Ashley Roman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center.
But Krieger notes that this trend isn't true for everyone. "Some women may lose weight quicker than others whether or not they are breastfeeding," she says.
Two Weeks Postpartum Belly
Krieger doesn't think new moms should weigh themselves during the first two weeks, when you still might be establishing breastfeeding and "your hormones are starting to come down." In other words, you're still in that "baby blues" period where seeing an undesired number on the scale might send you straight into tears. Plus, she adds, "the number on the scale is usually not reflective of body fat, so don't discourage yourself." Krieger recommends measuring your waist with a measuring tape once a month to track inches instead of pounds.
One Month Postpartum Belly
If you’re worried about how to lose a postpartum belly, take note: It's common for new moms to shed as many as 20 pounds in the month after delivery, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Since most women are advised to gain 25-35 pounds while pregnant, you might be almost back to your pre-baby size by this point!
Six Week Postpartum Belly
The uterus returns to the pelvis around six weeks after birth, and it goes back to its original size (similar to a closed fist). This means your postpartum belly will look flatter and smaller. "It's a big change as far as the belly goes," Krieger says.
Nine Months Postpartum Belly
Krieger says there's some truth to the saying "nine months on, nine months off." But if you gained more than the recommended 25-35 pounds, it could take a bit longer to look like "you" again. "The bottom line is that each woman loses postpartum weight at her own pace," Krieger says. But it’s important to know that, in some women, the skin loses its ability to regain its pre-pregnancy elasticity and does not go back to the way it was.
How to Get Rid of Your Postpartum Belly
According to ACOG, if you keep up the healthy eating habits you began during pregnancy, you'll be close to your normal weight within a few months of giving birth. Getting some exercise will help you lose the weight. (Check out some postpartum belly exercises here.)
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is also key. "As long as Mom is eating enough calories to ensure she consumes the vitamins and minerals necessary to promote healthy skin and weight loss/maintenance, and she includes a little fitness each day, she is not only being the healthiest mom, but she is role-modeling a healthy lifestyle for her children," Krieger says.
She also warns against fad diets, which will not promote long-term weight loss. Even worse: crash dieting can deny your body of nutrients and delay healing after birth, and deprive your baby of critical calories and nutrients if you're breastfeeding, ACOG says.
Should I Use a Postpartum Belly Band?
Women who had C-sections may be advised to wear a postpartum belly band or wrap, since they can help your C-section incision heal. But you may have seen women with vaginal deliveries touting the benefits of these products as well.
Here’s the deal: While postpartum belly wraps (also called belly binders) won’t actually cause weight loss, they may provide some benefits. For example, they help tighten your stomach after pregnancy, improve circulation, reduce swelling through compression, and support the abdomen and lower back. They also give the stomach a flatter appearance under clothing. What’s more, these postpartum belly bands may be especially helpful for those with diastasis recti.
Ask your doctor if you want to use a postpartum belly wrap. If given the go-ahead, you’ll likely wear it for about six-eight weeks, for 10-12 hours per day (depending on manufacturer's instructions). And remember, you still need a healthy diet and exercise plan to lose the postpartum belly!